The ‘Improving Your Sex Life’ Panel Talk Finding Joy In Pleasure


Joy through sexual pleasure was the topic of Sunday’s panel discussion, “Improving Your Sex Life,” inside the ESSENCE Wellness House at Ogden Museum.

“We are naturally sexual beings with our sexual prime happening during our 40s, 50s and 60s,” said Anita Kopacz, spiritual psychologist and author. She reminded women that “we are connected to the divine and our intuition is God.”

Fellow panelist, marriage and family therapist Shaheen Francis’s goal was to equip Black women with the confidence to talk openly about sex. She said the comfort we feel when we’re talking during dinner with a friend should be the same type of ease with which we confront the topic of sexual pleasure.

“We’re not afraid to speak about our food preferences when deciding what to order at a restaurant, or when deciding what time to meet,” she said. Francis encouraged everyone in the Joy Sanctuary to embrace the same confidence when communicating about sex, adding, “shift how you show up to those talks.”

Attendee Marion Tillman of New York left the discussion with the intention of talking openly about sexual pleasure, saying, “I come from a family where the sex talk was simply ‘don’t do that,’” she recalled to ESSENCE. “My mom had four daughters, and we didn’t talk about it. I’m now the mother of a grown daughter and I basically told her the same thing: ‘don’t do it.’ My daughter and I have been through everything together, yet we never talk about sex.”

Kopacz, the former editor-in-chief of Heart & Soul magazine, is also the founder of “Zero F’s Given,” a campaign to raise awareness and help victimized and disenfranchised populations heal from sexual trauma. Speaking quite bluntly, she opened up about her own journey to joy in the bedroom.

“My first experience with squirting was in my 30s and I had no idea what it was,” she said. “My partner explained it and I soon told my sisters and girlfriends with excitement.” Her openness allowed other women to let down their walls when it comes to the topic.

“One of the things I really, really enjoyed was the conversation about squirting. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard anyone speak about it so blatantly and the fact that she took the time to break it down and explain it was very mind-opening to me,” expressed Susan Ottley of Maryland. She spoke to us as she was on her way to the Zen Zone for a more intimate wellness session on sacred sensuality led by Kopacz. “I truly would recommend ESSENCE Festival of Culture to women and I hope Wellness House returns next year.”

When moderator Atoya Burleson prompted the panelists to offer their top tips to improving our sex lives, they left the audience with gems. Francis advised women to “root into joy as pleasure. Sex is an opportunity for sensual pleasure. Know what you want and that you can say ‘yes.’ If you’re in fact saying ‘no,’ self-assess why with no judgment or shame,” she said. “Lastly, if that ‘no’ is in the way, and something you no longer want to maintain, dig deep into discovering where you can get more support in allowing yourself to receive.” As for Kopacz, she recommended women create safe spaces for sex and talk about the joy of it with close friends.

Keep up with Anita Kopacz via Instagram at anitakopacz. You can also tap into a wellness app co-created by Shadeen Francis by visiting There you will find resources for even more real conversations on improving your sex life.


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